Transgressive Abercrombie & Fitch?

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Sun Jul 13 08:49:22 MDT 2003

Here's an article on the waspy retail outlet's discriminatory hiring 
practices. This is the same outfit whose catalog Zizek wrote copy for. I 
definitely want to track that down. (I wonder if he mentions Lenin?) If you 
go to their website at, you'll find a 
calculated bid to appear "transgressive". The photos are in the Bruce Weber 
mode, which is to say mildly homoerotic. If you select "A&F Quarterly" from 
the home page, you'll discover that it is a special "Sex Ed" issue filled 
with knowing references to French pornographic novels from the 1920s and 
fetish models. This kind of stuff inspired Thomas Frank to launch the 
magazine "The Baffler" in the 1990s. Here is one of his keen observations:

"The ways in which this system are to be resisted are equally well 
understood and agreed-upon. The Establishment demands homogeneity; we 
revolt by embracing diverse, individual life-styles. It demands self-denial 
and rigid adherence to convention; we revolt through immediate 
gratification, instinct uninhibited, and liberation of the libido and the 
appetites. Few have put it more bluntly than Jerry Rubin did in 1970: 
'Amerika says: Don't! The yippies say: Do It!' The countercultural idea is 
hostile to any law and every establishment. 'Whenever we see a rule, we 
must break it,' Rubin continued. 'Only by breaking rules do we discover who 
we are.' Above all rebellion consists of a sort of Nietzschean 
antinomianism, an automatic questioning of rules, a rejection of whatever 
social prescriptions we've happened to inherit. Just Do It is the whole of 
the law." (Commodify Your Dissent, p. 32)


NY Times, July 13, 2003
Going for the Look, but Risking Discrimination

CHICAGO, July 6 — A funny thing happens when Elizabeth Nill, a sophomore at 
Northwestern University, goes shopping at Abercrombie & Fitch.

At no fewer than three Abercrombie stores, she says, managers have 
approached her and offered her a job as a clerk.

"Every time this happens, my little sister says, `Not again,' " said Ms. 
Nill, who is 5-foot-6 and has long blond hair. She looks striking. She 
looks hip. She looks, in fact, as if she belongs in an Abercrombie & Fitch 

Is this a coincidence? A fluke? No, says Antonio Serrano, a former 
assistant Abercrombie store manager in Scranton, Pa. It's policy.

"If someone came in with a pretty face, we were told to approach them and 
ask them if they wanted a job," Mr. Serrano said. "They thought if we had 
the best-looking college kids working in our store, everyone will want to 
shop there."

Abercrombie's aggressive approach to building a pretty and handsome sales 
force, an effort that company officials proudly acknowledge, is a leading 
example of what many industry experts and sociologists describe as a 
steadily growing trend in American retailing. From Abercrombie to the 
cosmetics giant L'Oréal, from the sleek W hotel chain to the Gap, 
businesses are openly seeking workers who are sexy, sleek or simply 


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